Maine Port City’s Historic Vote on Tar Sands Ordinance Has Significant National, Regional Implications



Emily Figdor, [email protected], 207.253.1965

Gabby Brown, [email protected], 202.261.2382

Maine Port City’s Historic Vote on Tar Sands Ordinance Has Significant National, Regional Implications

South Portland, ME — In a 6-1 vote late last night, the City Council City Council of South Portland, Maine passed an ordinance blocking the loading of tar sands onto tankers at the only deep-water port on the U.S. East Coast that connects to crude oil pipelines.

South Portland’s Clear Skies Ordinance is intended to protect the coastal city of 25,000 from increased air pollution and from having its scenic coast, a pier between two historic lighthouses in Maine’s Casco Bay, transformed by two towering, 70-foot smokestacks. On a press call this afternoon, national environmental advocates joined local leaders who championed the ordinance to discuss the significance of the city’s action, which was spurred by citizen organizing and successful despite big spending by the American Petroleum Institute and other oil interests. 

“The passage of this ordinance was truly an example of democracy in its purest form,” said South Portland Mayor Jerry Jalbert.

“Citizens working to protect their community prevailed over Big Oil. It is a true David versus Goliath victory,” added Environment Maine Director Emily Figdor. “The oil industry is not invincible, and the exploitation of tar sands is not inevitable. From Nebraska to Maine, citizens are standing up, and powerfully so, to protect their communities—and we are winning.” 

“South Portland is suddenly a big cork in the tarsands bottle,” said Bill McKibben, Board Chair and Co-founder of the national environmental advocacy group “Not only have the residents stood up for their own best interests, they’ve done the planet (and the Gulf of Maine) a huge favor by keeping those global warming gases safely underground.”

“Communities from Portland, Maine to York, Nebraska are standing up to protect our land and water from risky energy projects like tar sands,” Jane Kleeb, President of Bold Nebraska, told reporters. “Landowners and citizens are not letting Big Oil bully them into accepting ‘business as usual’ anymore. Citizens have the backs of brave elected officials who show the political will to take action at the local level.”

“There are literally hundreds of people here in South Portland to thank for what happened last night. But isn’t that part of what democracy is all about? A community working together can do amazing things,” added Mary-Jane Ferrier of Protect South Portland.

Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Program Director with the Natural Resources Council of Maine, said “Yesterday’s victory shows that no one is above the democratic process, and when out-of-state oil interests try to throw their weight around to pollute a Maine town with tar sands, we know how to say ‘No’.”